By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
As a sophomore, Macie Conway was a crucial player for the Kickapoo girls basketball team.
She averaged 16 points per game and snagged first team honors on the All-Ozark Conference team. She helped Kickapoo to a third-straight district title with a 17-point effort in the finals against Nixa.
Less than a year later, Conway is in the midst of another all-conference season. But this time she’s doing it for Nixa.
Conway’s family moved before the school year started and now she’s a key piece for a resurgent Eagles squad. She leads the team in scoring and rebounding and her freshman sister, Sadie, is another important contributor.
“It wasn’t really a decision on my part but I’m totally not complaining at all,” Conway said Friday after a road win at Joplin, exactly 11 months after her performance in the district championship. “I love it. There’s no place I’d rather be.”
But the transition was “nerve-racking” last summer. Conway didn’t know how Nixa’s other players would react. She would obviously be taking playing time away from somebody. And word got around pretty fast she was transferring.
Her introduction came in a classroom before offseason workouts. Players had gathered to talk about a book they had read over the summer.
“Everyone was open-armed,” she said. “I came in and it was a super easy transition. I love the game more than I ever have with this group of girls and the coaches. It was awesome. I love it.”
Head coach Jennifer Perryman, now in her eighth year, said the Conway sisters have been great fits for a program she describes as a family unit.
“From day one it wasn’t about what you brought to the floor, it was like who you are and what you bring to the program,” she said. “That’s one thing that’s really important to me. They both bring a lot of things on the floor and off the floor.”
She described Macie as a passionate player and a gym rat who loves the game. The two have a strong relationship off the floor.
“She’s a phenomenal person, they’re a great family,” she said.
Her impression of Conway last year as a Kickapoo standout?
“I mean obviously I knew she was all-conference and all-district,” she said. “She’s one of the best junior guards all around.”
On the court she’s been a good fit for Nixa’s style of play, Perryman said. She’s also become a more versatile player.
“The biggest difference is at Kickapoo I was primarily a guard,” Conway said. “Clearly Kickapoo is known for their height. So I was primarily a guard. Coming into Nixa I’m actually one of the bigger girls so I play guard, post, wing. That’s really improved my all-around game because I’m forced to play every position. That’s really helped me a lot and I love it because I get exposure to all the parts of the floor.”
Through the first 20 games of the season Conway averaged 16.9 points (338 total) while shooting 51 percent from the field and 40 percent (25-for-63) from three. That scoring average is six points better than anyone else on the roster, and she leads the team in rebounding with an average of 3.8 per game. She’s grabbed 40 offensive boards – 15 more than anybody else.
Her contributions have helped Nixa to a 15-6 start and a 3-1 record in Central Ozark Conference play. The Eagles finished 13-14 last season and are seeking their first 20-win season since 2014. They were district champions in 2018.
“I think every one of our kids from last year was in a tough position because when we lost Emily (Edwards) everyone had to be in a different spot than they were used to,” Perryman said. “They used last year to get better and learn and every single one of them came in this summer a better player, more determined, more experienced and I think if you add Macie and Sadie to that and then you add Lily (Mahy) and Jacy (Bray) who came in as well, it was just the perfect mix and we’ve done very well with it.”
Edwards, a guard, missed her senior season last year due to a medical condition. She had committed to play at Rockhurst.
That university continues to pay attention to Nixa’s program. Conway and junior Ali Kamies took a visit there last month, and on January 27 Conway announced a verbal commitment to play for Rockhurst in college.
Kamies announced her commitment on Thursday.
“We watched practice, toured the campus. We absolutely love the team, the coaches,” Conway said. “You could tell the girls enjoyed it. They’re definitely on the rise and becoming a really good basketball program after beating Drury. That’s something I want to be a part of. I just like the atmosphere plus pre-med is kind of where I want to go and they’re big in that.”
Perryman said Rockhurst’s full-ride scholarship offers to the pair was especially meaningful considering the scholarship bind faced by the class of 2022. The NCAA has granted athletes an extra year of eligibility due to COVID, and that will create a roster crunch next season.
“Money is a real issue in college athletics right now and they’ve got scholarship offers,” Perryman said. “I told them you need to take pride in that because there’s a lot of good players out there who are not going to get offers just simply because of COVID.”